By Tom Prezelski
Re-Blogged from Rum, Romanism and Rebellion
Folks who claim that our modern border militiamen are part of a proud Arizona tradition would do well to read what Captain John G. Bourke,
an officer who accompanied General George R. Crook during the pursuit
of Geronimo, had to say about their 19th century antecedents. Bourke
characterized them as "rum-poisoned bummers" and "senseless cowards who
sought to kill a few peaceable Indians and gain a little cheap
notoriety." The captain went on to describe how their gun-happy
amateurishness did nothing but make a bad situation on the frontier even
The latest manifestation of the worst of the wild west
spirit comes, of course, from Maricopa County, where a member of one
such band of self-styled "militia minutemen" is in serious trouble for having pointed a rifle at a uniformed Sheriff's deputy in the desert near Gila Bend.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio reacted with characteristically
macho swagger in a statement to the fawning press, warning that such
civilian patrolmen risk getting "30 rounds fired into" them if they
cross paths with his deputies this way in the future. What America’s
Toughest SheriffTM failed to do was recognize his own complicity in what occurred.
Arpaio is best known these days for his tough-guy bloviation about
immigration issues and his television friendly "sweeps" in which heavily
armed deputies make a show of arresting dangerous housekeepers and
kitchen workers, one does not have to be a geezer to remember when his
attitude was different. Back in 2005, Arpaio
publicly feuded with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas over his
refusal to prosecute a vigilante who "arrested" several immigrants,
also near Gila Bend. Arpaio seemed to lack enthusiasm for the cause
around which rivals like Thomas and Senator Russell Pearce built their
careers. It was only later, after the attention-hungry sheriff
discovered that appealing to bigots was a winning political formula,
that he joined Pearce and Thomas at the podium with overheated rhetoric
denouncing the Brown Peril.
Some stories about this latest
incident claim that Arpaio has always been less-than-supportive of the
Minuteman Movement, but this is not entirely the case. Arpaio himself
has proposed raising an armed posse of "citizen volunteers" to enforce immigration laws, and he has welcomed the support of leading militia-types and nativists
in the past. If Arpaio had any problem with their activities or
rhetoric, he has certainly been unwilling to expend even a scintilla of
his considerable political capital to express his misgivings.
this, Arpaio's rhetoric, tactics, and consistent targeting of the
Mexican-American community have contributed to a political environment
where something like this could happen.
Of course, the sheriff's
indignation is not really about public safety or curbing the excesses of
the anti-immigration movement. This is, as always, about Arpaio
himself. Other incidents, including the murder of a family in Arivaca
at the hands of militia activists, passed without comment from the
usually talkative sheriff. Arpaio's affected righteous anger is largely
about the fact that one of his deputies was threatened. If only he
showed the same concern for the other victims of the poisoned atmosphere
that he himself helped to create.